Tips for Working with Sign Language Interpreters

Use the following guidelines when working with an interpreter to maximize the effectiveness of your investment:

Meet with the interpreter for a few minutes before the event begins. You’ll need to spend the time clarifying any language issues that may arise such as unique vocabulary, technical terms, acronyms and jargon. It’s also a good idea to work out logistic needs such as seating arrangements and lighting, and to provide the interpreter with any written materials if necessary.​


Reserve seats for the deaf participants that provide a clear view of both the speaker and interpreter, though they may still choose to sit elsewhere. In small group discussions, consider circle or semi-circle seating instead of a theater style arrangement. The interpreter and deaf participants must have a sight line to each other.


Provide good lighting so the interpreter can be seen. If lights will be turned off or dimmed, be sure the interpreter can still be seen clearly by using a spotlight or small lamp to direct light toward the interpreter.​


Talk directly to and look at the deaf person, not the interpreter, though they may not necessarily be looking at you while you speak. Avoid directing comments to the interpreter (i.e. "Tell him..." or "Ask her..."). Instead respond directly to the deaf person.


Whatever the interpreter hears will be interpreted. Do not ask the interpreter to censor any portion of the conversation.


Avoid asking the interpreter for opinions or comments regarding the content of the discussion.


Do not assume the interpreter has prior knowledge of the deaf person or will be interpreting future appointments.